He streaked across the baseball sky during the Great Depression, a homespun hard thrower whose career wasn’t dissimilar to Sandy Koufax. Dizzy Dean baseball cards came mostly with gum and upon their emergence from packs, surely launched 10,000 discussions among 1930s youth.
Attending only a few years of elementary school in his home state of Arkansas, Jay Hanna Dean made his debut in 1930 but became a fixture with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1932–the first of four straight years in which he led the National League in strikeouts. He remains the last NL pitcher to win 30 games, a feat he accomplished in ’34 when he led the Cards to a World Series title, despite being knocked unconscious while pinch running in one game. Arm trouble in the late 1930s meant he would leave St. Louis and never be the same pitcher, but Dean still managed to lead the Cubs to the 1938 pennant.
He won only 150 games in a career that was effectively over by the time he turned 30 but his dominance during the mid-1930s was enough to get him into Cooperstown.
Off the field and especially during a long broadcasting career after his playing days, “Ol’ Diz” was a colorful sort, often butchering the language but endearing himself to fans.
Here are five Dizzy Dean cards to put on your want list:
Dean’s rookie card arrived during a year in which he tossed a remarkable 26 complete games and won 20 for the first time. You can own a mid-grade example for a few hundred dollars.
1933 Tattoo Orbit
The Tattoo Orbit Dean is far more scarce than the Goudey, but prices really don’t reflect it. The art deco look of this set–and the chance to see Diz up close–make it an attractive option.
1934-36 Batter Up
Speaking of attractive… the low angle image on the Batter Up card makes him look larger than life–which is just how it should be. This set, as a whole, is not expensive and a decent Dean can often be found on eBay for $300-$400.
1934 Gold Medal Foods
Often mistakenly referred to as “Gold Medal Flour”, the postcard-sized photos in this set were actually produced by the Minneapolis area company that made Wheaties. The black and white cards were part of a mail-in offer that featured members of the 1934 Series combatants, the Cardinals and Detroit Tigers, so they were probably issued in early 1935. Diz was at the peak of his powers and the great photo of him smiling while seated is hard to top.
The Gold Medal Dean card is a little tough to find but you can usually locate a single or set on eBay for a fairly modest investment, except for high-grade examples.
1935 Rice-Stix Shirts
No, they weren’t produced by a food maker. Rice-Stix was a St. Louis clothing maker that had a promotional deal with Dizzy and his brother Paul. The two-card set (one for each brother) was issued in the Cardinals home area and is among the most beautiful issues of the 30s. With Sportsman’s Park as the backdrop, the image jumps off the page.
Only a few dozen examples of each have been authenticated and only a few of those are remotely close to high-grade so they can be pricey but as an overall package, they belong on this list.